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Video of Japanese neighborhood under antidiscrimination measures must be deleted: court

A court is seen. (Getty)

TAMBA SASAYAMA, Hyogo -- A Japanese court has ordered an online video-sharing platform operator to delete a video showing a neighborhood subject to antidiscrimination measures in this west Japan city, acknowledging a temporary suspension request demanded by the municipal government and a local community association.

    The order by the Kobe District Court's Kaibara branch against Tokyo-based Dwango Co. was dated Feb. 9, and the video has already been deleted.

    The video showed the neighborhood subject to antidiscrimination measures with an explanation, "Though there is an image of a ghetto, every house is decent," and there was a scene in which viewers could identify the area name. The video was posted on online video-sharing platforms YouTube, Livedoor Blog and Niconico one after another between September and November 2020, and could be watched by anyone.

    As the head of the local community association and others became aware of the video, they consulted with the Tamba Sasayama Municipal Government. The government and the community association then asked the district court's branch to issue an interim order to the video-sharing platforms' respective operators, Google Japan GK, Line Corp. and Dwango Co., to delete the video for reasons including that "As they are spreading the video from a discriminatory perspective, they clearly violate residents' honorary rights and privacy rights."

    Google Japan and Line had deleted the video by January 2021. While Dwango had initially shown its intention to resist, with a representative saying, "We have verified the video content, but we will not delete it voluntarily," the district court's branch acknowledged that the municipal government's claim was reasonable, and issued an interim order to delete the video. According to the municipal government, the video was later deleted from the Niconico website.

    A public relations representative at Dwango said, "We are checking the facts now."

    "The video promoted discrimination, and surprised and angered me," Tamba Sasayama Mayor Takaaki Sakai said in a May 31 news conference. "While there is freedom of expression, discrimination cannot be forgiven. I think that operators need to check and fully examine video contents."

    According to the antidiscrimination group the Headquarters of Buraku Liberation League, it was the nation's first case in which a local government had asked a court to order the deletion of a discriminatory video. The Buraku Liberation League said that there have been more than 100 reports of similar videos across Japan since around 2018.

    "Even if private entities or individuals ask video-sharing platforms to delete videos, such requests are rarely met," said Satoshi Onishi, the organization's chief of general affairs. "As the effect of a local government asking a court to take action is significant, we want to see more of the same."

    (Japanese original by Yoshiko Yukinaga, Tamba Local Bureau, and Ai Murata, Kobe Bureau)

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